How to Help a Good Person After an Extreme Tragedy?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have a childhood friend who had the worst tragedy of anyone that I have ever heard. Before I tell you what happened, I want to tell you a little bit about him. He is extremely intelligent and has a really good heart. He has the brains to do just about anything. The problem is besides intelligence, he is disadvantage in every other way. He is overweight and not very socially smart. He has also struggled with attention deficient disorder. He never went to college and he still lives with his parents at the age of 29. He doesn’t have to live there for financial reasons. I just think he does for reasons that I just mentioned. I have known him all my life and i have hardly ever seen him happy. The ironic thing is that he is picky about who he dates. I do think that he knows that he is not a catch and that could be why he is unhappy. I have always wondered what he had to live for. All of these disadvantages are nothing compared to what happened to him a month ago.

He has always liked guns and hunting all his life. He had a gun out on a stand getting it ready to hunt. Something went off on the loaded gun and ended up killing his mother while he was in the other room. Of course, he needs professional help. I guess what I want to know is how do you help him get help or tell him he needs it. He is one of those people who gets hurt easily. However, he intimidates everyone. Though sensitive, he can be very mean. No one knows what to say or do around him. Under different circumstances, a simple sorry about your mom would probably do. What I want to know is how to get him to get help. I also want to know if there is anything I can do or say that would help someone in a situation like that. Thanks so much for looking at my question. Elizabeth

A. Dear Elizabeth, my suggestion is to take the approach with him that you are worried about him. You can try saying this to him (or some variation of): “you have experienced a tremendous trauma and it cannot be easy to deal with. I see that you are suffering and that concerns me. I worry about you and I care about you but I feel limited in how I can best help you. Anyone who was in your situation would be struggling too. It cannot be easy and if it were me I would not know where to turn. Have you ever thought about getting help? You could go to a grief support group or find a counselor who knows how to help people who are dealing with a loss. I will help to find a support group or a counselor for you and go with you if you want me to.”

The basic idea you want to express to him is that you are concerned about him. He may be thankful that you are a concerned friend and after talking to you decide to get help. But be prepared for the opposite reaction, which is that he may not be interested in your concern or he has no intention to go for help. If it turns out to be the latter there may not be much else you can do. You cannot force someone into treatment when they do not want to go, no matter how much you believe (or know) that they could benefit from it.

All that you can do in this situation is to express your concern and suggest that he go to treatment. If he rejects these ideas realize that he has the right to say no. You can continue to encourage him to seek help but once you have tried these things, recognize that you may have done everything you can. He is an adult who can make his own choices. People have to be responsible for themselves.

Whether he knows it or not, he is lucky to have you as a friend. Thanks Elizabeth for your question.

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Dec 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). How to Help a Good Person After an Extreme Tragedy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/29/how-to-help-a-good-person-after-an-extreme-tragedy/